CEDAR GROVE, NJ — A pair of Republican lawmakers from North Jersey say there’s a way to thank health care workers battling the coronavirus: forgive their student loans.
Earlier this week, Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips (District 40) and Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (District 13) issued a call for the federal government to create a student loan forgiveness program for doctors, nurses and emergency medical services workers.
As these crucial health workers continue to serve on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis, there’s no reason they should also have to worry about paying down the burden of their costly educations, the lawmakers said.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has healthcare workers stepping up in ways they’ve never imagined,” said DePhillips, who represents Cedar Grove, Allendale, Franklin Lakes, Ho-Ho-Kus, Little Falls, Midland Park, Pequannock, Pompton Lakes, Ridgewood, Riverdale, Totowa, Waldwick, Wayne, Woodland Park and Wyckoff.
“They are risking their lives to fight an invisible enemy and we owe them much gratitude,” DePhillips said. “We also need to acknowledge the debt they accumulated to be able to perform at the level that is now expected. Doctors and nurses working for private hospitals don’t qualify for certain public service forgiveness programs, but they are performing the same work as those in the public sector and they deserve the financial assistance.”
“Our health care workers and first responders are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 using their education to save lives while risking their own and missing their families every day,” said DiMaso, who represents Aberdeen, Atlantic Highlands, Fair Haven, Hazlet, Highlands, Holmdel, Keansburg, Keyport, Little Silver, Marlboro, Middletown, Monmouth Beach, Oceanport, Rumson, Sea Bright and Union Beach.
“They truly deserve federal student loan forgiveness, at a minimum,” DeMaso said. “We couldn’t do this without them.”
According to a joint statement from DePhillips and DeMaso:
“To be eligible for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, you have to be employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization. There is also a loan forgiveness program for teachers.”
The lawmakers continued:
“Currently, without a federal forgiveness program in place for these health care workers, they can apply for limited relief, including suspending monthly payments and interest until Sept. 30 through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”
DePhillips and DeMaso noted that earlier this week, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that New Jersey residents with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Program Loans or privately held student loans will be eligible for options like 90 days of forbearance, waiving late fees, and ceasing negative credit reporting and debt collection.
Last month, Murphy announced that borrowers with loans from the New Jersey College Loans to Assist State Students (NJCLASS) program would be able to apply for similar payment relief programs.
But more needs to be done, DePhillips and DeMaso said.
“Our EMS members, the doctors and nurses leave their homes each day knowing they’ll be treating patients with a highly contagious and deadly virus,” DePhillips said. “Delaying payments or waiving late fees for their student loans isn’t enough. We need to do more.”
DePhillips and DiMaso said they plan to introduce a resolution at the next quorum that urges President Donald Trump and Congress to establish their proposed student loan forgiveness program.
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